2012 Legislative Wrap-Up

October 18, 2012

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I am reluctant to erode the independence and flexibility that have well served the families and teachers who choose charter schools. - Governor Jerry Brown, in his veto message of AB 1594

After the California Legislature adjourned at the end of August, Governor Jerry Brown had hundreds of bills on his desk on which to act. By the end of September 30, Governor Brown had acted on all of the 996 bills sent to him in 2012. Like last year, the governor signed and vetoed bills on both sides of the ideological aisle, signing 876 bills and vetoing 120, for a 12% veto rate.

While most interest groups had something to like and something to be disappointed in, the governor's actions, when taken as a whole, were pragmatic and middle of the road. The governor's office has publicly stated that he reviews each bill on its merits, however many political observers believe that the governor also acted this fall with an eye towards the November elections and the difficult decisions voters will be making on the propositions before them, particularly the governor's own measure, Proposition 30.

The governor again, as detailed below, opposed the re-regulation of charter schools, continuing his strong support for California's charter public schools. Keep reading for more information on the governor's actions.

Charter School Actions

Just like in previous years, the charter school movement entered the 2012 legislative year facing an onslaught of bills that sought to turn back the growth of charter schools. But with our collective efforts, not one of those bad bills introduced became law.

As noted in recent issues of the Capitol Update, the governor was sent several charter school bills by the Legislature. What is even more important though are the bills that never got to his desk, bills you helped defeat with your advocacy efforts. In addition to the key charter school items in the budget that you fought for, your efforts to stop costly re-regulation on charter schools meant that bills like AB 925 (Gatto), AB 1172 (Mendoza), AB 1568 (Hernandez), AB 1819 (Ammiano), and AB 2032 (Mendoza) never became law. Taken together, these bills would have resulted in reduced autonomy and millions of dollars in increased costs for charter schools. Thank you for your help in stopping these bills!

In the entire 2011-12 legislative session, only two bills that CCSA opposed made it to the governor, AB1594 (Eng) and AB 1811 (Bonilla). The governor vetoed them both and his veto messages for these bills were strong statements in support of charter schools. On AB 1594, the governor acknowledged the importance of pupil nutrition, but also the importance of the inherent flexibility and freedom from red-tape that charter schools have. And on AB 1811, the governor's statement reinforced the need for comprehensive school funding reform, like a Weighted Student Formula (WSF) which CCSA supports, rather than a piecemeal approach.

One new bill which will affect all charter schools is SB 1290 (Alquist), which requires greater emphasis on subgroup growth. The governor signed this bill, and CCSA supported it, to ensure California's compliance with the Public Charter School Grant Program, which provides approximately $60 million per year for charter schools in California. Look for future information from CCSA on the implementation of SB 1290 and how it may affect your school. Make sure to read past issues of the Capitol Update for details of the governor's actions on all charter school bills.

At the end of each legislative session, CCSA compiles legislators' votes on key charter school bills in our voting scorecard. While these scorecards cannot reflect the full breadth of a legislator's actions on charter school issues, they can be a valuable tool for examining Legislators' records. We encourage CCSA members to review the updated scorecard.

Education Bills

One common trend in the Governor Brown's actions this year was the vetoing of new state commissions and task forces. This included the veto of AB 18 (Brownley), which would have established a task force to review and analyze alternative funding formulas for California's schools. In his veto message, the governor again turned to the WSF and his desire to see that policy adopted by working with the legislature next year.

The governor did sign legislation to assist California in implementing the Common Core State Standards Initiative, update California's Education Code to reflect online learning as a delivery tool, and begin the process of updating the state's API system with SB 1458 (Steinberg). This bill moves the API scores towards broader and more holistic measures than just test scores, and was a closely watched education bill. Last year, the governor vetoed a similar bill by Senator Steinberg, because the governor thought that bill was too specific about the new measurement. SB 1458 provides a framework; the State Board of Education and the Superintendent of Public Instruction will be responsible for determining the new API elements and weights over the next few years.

In addition, the governor signed AB 1575 (Lara), which prohibits public schools, including charter schools, from charging pupil fees, by further defining the types of pupil fees prohibited by the California Constitution. You can read more about this bill in an Ed Source Today article, including the background on why this bill was introduced. CCSA will be providing technical assistance to members in the coming months on this new law.

In December, CCSA will provide a summary of new education laws going into effect on January 1, 2013.

Other Bills of Interest

In keeping with his "a little on the left, a little on the right" philosophy of governing, the governor also acted on several high profile bills in the last days of the bill signing period. He signed a bill which requires parents to discuss immunizations with a health care practitioner if they are opting out of those requirements for their children, as is allowable under current law as a personal belief exemption. In his signing message for AB 2109 (Pan), the governor directed the Department of Public Health to implement this in the least burdensome way to parents.

He also signed a bill making some undocumented immigrants in California eligible for driver's licenses, while vetoing other bills supported by immigrant rights' and labor groups, such as increased protections for agricultural employees.

And finally, Governor Brown rejected attempted increases in ticket fines, including one for cell phone use while driving, saying in part, "I have found even a $50 ticket unpleasant enough. My point here is that the current fines are not trivial but do in fact get drivers' attention. Upping the fines may satisfy the punitive instincts of some, but I severely doubt that it will further reduce violations."

If you have questions on any of these bills or other legislation acted on in 2012, please email the Government Affairs team.

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